How to get over not being attracted to your spouse?
May 25, 2006 12:03 PM   Subscribe

What can I do If I'm not physically attracted to my spouse?

I'm having tremendous guilt/worries about this. Here's the lowdown: We've been married 4 years, together 5; in our mid 30's; Have a great relationship as far as communication & goals go; & there is love & respect between us. The problem is that I am just not one bit attracted to him & it's becoming a problem because our sex life is just nonexistant.
We have gone to 2 counsleors, and that didn't help much. They were mostly focused on the communitation between us, which has always been good. Also, their suggestions were for things like "date night" and bubble baths and all that - which is all very nice, but the underlying problem is still there. When the counselor asked us what our problems were, I couldn't tell the truth - out of fear that it would just crush my spouse - I mean, how do you say to someone "we don't have sex, because I am not attracted to you at all, in fact you turn my off a little" ??

I'm not really sure I've ever been extremely attracted to him from the start, but the love was there, so I thought we'd be fine. He's attractive, and very, very nice, and our life is going great, except for the fact that we're more like roommates than lovers.

I'm healthy - I've seen my doctor, had blood work done, so I'm sure it's not a physical condition. My libido is as high as ever, so that makes it even more frustrating. We've read several books, including "the sex-starved marriage" and that really didn't address our problem - which is really MY problem, that I just can't bear to express to my husband.

So, am I doomed to remain in a passion-less marriage, or is there something I can do? And believe me, I'm doing my best to see his shining quailites & keep things new in our relationship. My mind is in the right spot, I'm committed, but I just can't get over this issue.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (41 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If he's not making a noise about this (and I would be, if I were in his position), perhaps there's the possibility he has similar feelings? There have been people in my non-immediate family who've had similar situations and they progressed into being the best of housemates. They even had each others kids living there while both dated independently. They now live apart but are still good friends.
posted by wackybrit at 12:11 PM on May 25, 2006

You've got a dilly of a problem. No amount of therapy is going to create attraction, especially since you don't know if you ever had it for him.

Maybe be honest and fair to him? He deserves someone who wants to have sex with him.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:12 PM on May 25, 2006

Can you pinpoint the specfic things that are unattractive? Perhaps you can think through these issues, dissect them and see how you can work through them in your head.
posted by stormygrey at 12:12 PM on May 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

I wish you would have said what about your husband turns you off. You also didn't say what you want. Do you just want sex? Do you want a relationship that includes sex? Do you love your husband or do you "love" your husband or do you actually hate his guts but can't admit it to yourself.

The perils of posting anonymously...

If your communication is as good as you say it is then you need to figure out exactly what you want, and then tell him.

Or, if you want to stay with him, you could just go to and think of an excuse for that new found twinkle in your eye.
posted by dobie at 12:18 PM on May 25, 2006

I don't think anything about her husband turns her off - just that she's not attracted to the dude.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:22 PM on May 25, 2006

I don't think anything about her husband turns her off


"I am not attracted to you at all, in fact you turn my off a little"
posted by Jairus at 12:24 PM on May 25, 2006

"They were mostly focused on the communication between us, which has always been good...When the counselor asked us what our problems were, I couldn't tell the truth - out of fear that it would just crush my spouse"

I will quietly suggest that these appear to be conflicting statements. If communication is great on every subject except the one that's the problem, it brings the average down.

The key would seem to be bringing the problem right out into the open, and if it's strong everywhere else, then crushings will be survived and can be worked through together, one way or the other. Perhaps the physical attraction issue can be fixed; perhaps you'll settle on a friendly-platonic marriage and be okay with having purely-physical flings on the side. I'm sure you'd draw askance glances at that kind of "fix," but it's your marriage, not theirs.
posted by Drastic at 12:26 PM on May 25, 2006

I'd have to ask... who are you attracted to? What qualities do other men have that you find sexually attractive? What about other women?
posted by utsutsu at 12:28 PM on May 25, 2006

I would think that the stress of not being able to tell him about this might just be compunding the problem. If you come clean about it, that might just help the situation, who knows.
posted by lilboo at 12:29 PM on May 25, 2006

As DieHipster says, you've got yourself a "dilly of a pickle."

It sounds like you need more help than AskMe can offer. Can you surreptitiously make an appointment with one of the counselors you've already seen (and have observed you two together) to discuss the problem one-on-one?
posted by justkevin at 12:33 PM on May 25, 2006

Ditto stormygrey. You need to figure out why he is unattractive to you. Given that this is omitted from your post, and that you say your husband is [objectively] "attractive," you either can't or won't pin it down, but you probably need to. So, think about it:

What do you find attractive in other men? In particular, what do you see when you compare these men to your husband?

Is it the way he looks? Smells? Does he have mannerisms that irritate you? Is he too nice? Too rough? Detached? Short? Fat?

There are innumerable variables that play into attraction. Neither of you can change, fundamentally, but a few small improvements can make a huge difference. If he lost weight, cut his hair, and spanked you occasionally (or whatever it is that turns you on), that might be spark enough.
posted by miagaille at 12:35 PM on May 25, 2006

I'm not really sure I've ever been extremely attracted to him from the start, but the love was there, so I thought we'd be fine. He's attractive ...

So.. he's attractive, but you're not attracted to him? I'm a little confused on how this is even possible, and I wish you could reply somehow to clarify.

If that's actually the case, it sounds like what you're lacking is chemistry, it's not that he's physically unattractive... in that case, it would probably be best to talk to him about the chemistry and try to rekindle some romance.

If you're physically not attracted to him, and the "he's attractive" comment above was just kind of an odd/erroneous one or something, then I'm afraid there's not much you can really do short of hope he is working on changing his appearance (if it is controllable, like weight, etc)
posted by twiggy at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2006

On second reading my understanding is that you will stay in your passionless marriage regardless. You seem to grok that on some level, this isn't much of a marriage, but seem to want to stay in it because he's a great guy.

I suggest booze, and lots of it. It'll make him less unattractive and maybe make you tell him the ugly, ugly truth.

If you want to respond and clarify, my email is in my profile and I'll repost it for you.
posted by dobie at 12:37 PM on May 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

What do you find attractive in other men?

Do you find other men attractive? I don't mean this flippantly.
posted by maxreax at 12:41 PM on May 25, 2006

I'd suggest booze
I'd actually agree.

Not that I advocate drug use to fix personal problems, but booze and/or weed (depending on your tolerance for both/either) might let down this overthinking stuff (OMFG I'm not attracted to him!) and let the two of you run with your libido and have the wild animal sex you two pent up people deserve. Especially since the longer you wait for it and contemplate it, the more pressure, the less sexy.

Bad sex, over time, can turn me off to a partner. And there's something inherently sexy about a man I've had amazing orgasms with. I can't imagine the sex was good back when you were having it because, well, it stopped.

Of course, the sensible thing would be to recommend personal, rather than couples', therapy to see what the real issue is with you.

You say he's great, that he's attractive and that he's a nice guy. Either there's something wrong with the way you're wired or you're not being honest about yourself and your libido is your canary in the coal mine that not all is right.

I have plenty of friends who can't get attracted to nice guys because, well, they're unintentionally turned on by guys who treat them like crap. They'll date the nice guys (because we're all looking for nice guys, right?) and eventually they dump the guy in place of some a-hole who treats them as badly as their dad/their first boyfriend/[nsert guy who messed them up here] did.

I had the other problem with my ex where I couldn't admit to myself that he wasn't a great, wonderful guy because then I made a big mistake and my life was a failure. It took about three therapy sessions to sort that one out.

Either way, being honest with someone -- a therapist, councellor, whomever, sounds like it's needed.
posted by Gucky at 1:12 PM on May 25, 2006

This would be an entirely different problem if you had said, "When we were first dating, I was madly attracted to him and I couldn't wait to have sex with him," and then went on to say that since then the sex has tapered off.

If in fact you were never attracted to him, then what you have here is not a spouse, but a friend, and I'm afraid no amount of counseling or books or booze is going to change that.

Maybe you could schedule a private session with the counsellor and put your cards on the table, and ask for some guidance on how to break all this to your spouse. Then you can start figuring out if a marriage based on friendship is what you want.

Sorry to be so pessimistic, but the sexy stuff is either there or not there, and it's not under anyone's control.
posted by La Cieca at 1:15 PM on May 25, 2006

Maybe you could schedule a private session with the counsellor and put your cards on the table, and ask for some guidance on how to break all this to your spouse. Then you can start figuring out if a marriage based on friendship is what you want.

Seconding this advice. Your lack of attraction to your spouse is obviously an extremely significant issue, and as much as you understandably don't want to hurt him, you do no one any favors by keeping it secret. Your counselor can't truly help if he/she is missing such a major piece of the puzzle. So you don't have to break it to your husband just yet, but you've got to get it off your chest at least with a counselor in order to figure out if there is a way to generate some chemistry between you two, or if you do want to make the most of a passionless marriage.
posted by scody at 1:28 PM on May 25, 2006

I'll bet he could make himself more attractive to you, if he knew what you found attractive and wanted to do it for you.

That is, unless you're only attracted to hairy midgets or something. Which, honestly, seems unlikely.
posted by trevyn at 1:31 PM on May 25, 2006

A friend went through a painfully similar situation. Long marriage, great friendship, zero spark. Eventually she managed to admit to herself that she really was only attracted to women, but became convinced that the news would be devastating to her beloved husband. We finally convinced her that she had to start telling him the truth about her feelings, for both their sakes.

The upshot is that the divorce went really well, especially when he acquired a cute new boyfriend within 2 months of separating. (No one was more surprised by that twist than his ex, by the way. Heh.) They're both much happier people now, and dearer friends.

Sexual orientation isn't the point of that story. But the things you're not expressing, verbally or physically, are a terrible wedge between you two. Find a counselor who can help you accept whatever is in your own heart, and share the truth with your husband. Don't let fear hold you back. Maybe you're just one of those couples who can love each other better as friends than as spouses.

Good luck.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:35 PM on May 25, 2006 [4 favorites]

Frankly, just taking the author at her word, lack of chemistry exists: there are a lot of passionless and/or sexless marriages out there as a result, too.

I think guys tend to be more able to engage sexually despite core chemistry and my own experience and conversations with women suggest that a lot of them have had such a chain of inept jackasses as former lovers that they have no idea what they're sacrificing entering a LTR with inadequate sex.

Nothing is going to do any good, anon. How the hell do you expect counselling to help when you are being dishonest about the only relevant fact? You have two choices: you can live in a sexless lie of a marriage or you can tell the truth and see what happens. 99 to one it is going to end your marriage. It probably should have killed the relationship before it was ever an issue. It should certainly be resolved before children become a consideration, if that's an issue (and if that ship hasn't already sailed).

You seem to imply that not telling him what is going on is sparing him some sort of pain or personal devestation. There's no way such a revelation can not be hurtful, but what about what he is going through right now? Doesn't he have a right to consider his future without some false hope based on falseness? Believe me, he is getting the message that you aren't attracted to him loud and clear, every day, he just doesn't understand what's behind it. There are much kinder ways of telling him the truth of course than "I am not attracted to you at all, in fact you turn my off a little." But no matter how you say it you're looking at a horrible conversation. But it will only get more horrible the longer you fail to deal with it.

Only you have the key to what is wrong with your relationship. If it was me I would sure as hell want to be told the truth so that I could think about my future with all the facts on the table. There are lots of different possibilities. But you should really consider, maybe your husband deserves to have healthy, joyous sex be a part of his life. Maybe you do to.
posted by nanojath at 1:36 PM on May 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Be honest with him. Most guys are emotionally resilient. Tell him that you both will make a pact to get your asses into the gym regularly and start eating healthy. Tell him what is unattractive... his farting, belching, nose picking, ball scratching, hairy back, crack, and sack. Some guys are totally oblivious to this stuff. Be delicate, but be honest, and expect to get some sort of backlash or putdown. But be accepting of it.
posted by blueplasticfish at 1:54 PM on May 25, 2006

Although the topic is guaranteed flamebait on MetaFilter, religious groups have achieved real successes with reconditioning homosexuals to heterosexuality. If that can succeed, surely they can help you. I don't know what kind of counselors you approached, but you might consider examining different options. You needn't be religious to benefit from religious community services.

But for argument's sake, consider that maybe your problem isn't solvable. You're left with two options: Learn to cope with those circumstances inside your marriage, or leave. Either way, you'll probably have a mistake to regret, and you'll have to find a way to turn that regret into personal growth. It's an unpleasant choice, but there it is anyway.
posted by cribcage at 2:28 PM on May 25, 2006

So, am I doomed to remain in a passion-less marriage, or is there something I can do?

If you are committed to this, you will go to therapy on your own.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 2:31 PM on May 25, 2006

Why isn't he forcing the issue? I don't mean forcing you into sex, but pressuring you to reveal why you're not into it. He must be aware that something is going on with you, or he wouldn't have gone to counseling or read books.

Could it be that he's [relatively] ok with the situation as it is, and reluctant to say anything to YOU? I wouldn't assume that the feelings you are keeping from him would devastate him as much as you're worried about. He might be: A) relieved that HE'S not the one with the "problem*", and/or B) glad to get it out in the open, so you both can decide how to proceed.

I know of what I speak, but reluctant to give out more details here. Feel free to email me.

*Which is only a problem in the context of how you two view your relationship, not necessarily some some kind of problem with either of you personally. If both of you decide your marriage is ok the way it is, than you no longer have a problem.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:34 PM on May 25, 2006

I say both of you should get a gym membership. Work out together. Watch him lift weights and get a sweat going. You need to see each other differently, and you both need to do it quick.
posted by rinkjustice at 2:39 PM on May 25, 2006

I'm just guessing because there was a lot missing from the question, but I suspect that this is to do with your husband being too passive. I think it's generally difficult for a woman to get excited by a guy who doesn't ever surprise her. How much of this is his basic nature and how much can be changed I don't know, but you could take a look at the Surrendered Wife for some ideas.
posted by teleskiving at 2:45 PM on May 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

I was on the other end of this in a live-in relationship. She wasn't attracted to me and/or the chemistry just wasn't there. We never got it to work. Even though it wasn't my choice to break up, I'm now happy that I get a chance to not go through the rest of my life with little and/or bad sex.
posted by callmejay at 2:52 PM on May 25, 2006

You're contradicting yourself. You say you have a great relationship as far as communication and goals, but you've kept a massive secret from him for 5 years - one that most sane men would consider a complete deal-breaker. You even lied during couples counseling.

Your relationship is not "great as far as communication." To the contrary, it is "in the shitter as far as communication." Your relationship could not be worse as far as communication. I'm sure that most men reading this crossed themselves and thanked whatever God they pray to that they are not in fact married to you. That's the "great" relationship that you're in.

When you start to have some insight into what kind of a relationship you are actually in, only then will you be in any kind of a position to move forward.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:04 PM on May 25, 2006 [3 favorites]

You may find this book to be helpful. And read the Reader Reviews, those are good also.
posted by Araucaria at 3:15 PM on May 25, 2006

posted by jne1813 at 4:20 PM on May 25, 2006

Did it ever occur to you, or anyone else here for that matter, that decreased attraction to a partner is a natural part of the evolution of most relationships? I mean, how many folks married 10 years still have nightly sex and lose weight because they are to preoccupied with each other physically to think about eating?

I think it's natural, though 4 years may be a little early for it to COMPLETELY disappear.

Relationships have a defined evolutionary profile. This is part of it.

Offsetting it... contentment and commitment, shared goals, love instead of constant lust, etc.

(My vitae... married 24 years to one woman until cancer took her and now, 4 years to the second one. Happily in both cases.)
posted by FauxScot at 5:20 PM on May 25, 2006

Did it ever occur to you, or anyone else here for that matter, that decreased attraction to a partner is a natural part of the evolution of most relationships?

FauxScot, that's not what Anon is describing -- she says she doesn't think she was ever particularly attracted to her husband in the first place, and now (just a scant four years later) isn't attracted to him at all.
posted by scody at 5:33 PM on May 25, 2006

I suggest you give him the divorce he deserves.

He probably would like to be married to a woman who doesn't find him revolting.
posted by Megafly at 6:00 PM on May 25, 2006

Talk to your counselor by yourself first, get this issue out in the open with yourself first, then when you are more settled in your mind about how you feel and why you feel the way you do... talk to him.

If he isn't actively complaining about the lack of sex in your relationship, it could be that he is afraid to rock the boat by making it a deal-breaker issue. No one is alone in a relationship - if one of you is having problems the other one will act like a mirror and reflect back into the relationship.

Please, whatever you do, don't do anything that would betray him or yourself. By that I mean no other players, however casual. I've been on the receiving end in a relationship where someone I loved and trusted deceived me in every possible way. He was pretty unhealthy, and I became equally sick. It ended badly.

Good luck.
posted by Corky at 6:15 PM on May 25, 2006

I'm SURE we've had this exact question before, but I couldn't find it. I did however find a relevant discussion from the other side of the bed which you may or may not find helpful in framing the issue.
posted by tiamat at 7:35 PM on May 25, 2006

Found it. It was from the husband's prespective though. Still, some of the answers might help.

Less attracted to wife
posted by tiamat at 7:38 PM on May 25, 2006

I'm not really sure I've ever been extremely attracted to him from the start, but the love was there, so I thought we'd be fine.

What, did you get married when you were drunk, stoned, and twelve years old? Why didn't you just marry a brother or a cousin? Your bizarre idea of what a relationship even is, is so ridiculous that I almost doubt whether this question is even real. Your libido is in good shape, but in five years, you haven't had sex with anyone you're attracted to? The love was there, so you thought you'd be fine? On what basis? Were you looking at the double beds on the Dick Van Dyke show, and thinking 'gosh, Mary doesn't fuck Dick, so why should I have to fuck my husband?'

If you even exist, then you got married for the wrong reasons, and you should tell your husband so, and give him the chance to find someone who will put out for him.
posted by bingo at 8:18 PM on May 25, 2006 [5 favorites]

Teach him how to give you oral sex properly... if it takes drinking to get you comfortable with giving him specific direction, do it. Mind you I am a man, so I would benefit from outside validation, but I have it on good authority that a woman can develop at least basic attraction to any man who can do it the way it should be done. Think Pavlov's dogs, if this man is related to intense orgasms consistantly, how would a woman's body react to this man?
posted by JakeLL at 9:48 PM on May 25, 2006

scody, you're right... that's what anon was asking. I should have reread her question instead of answering the one I wished she had asked.

i feel for her, but on re-read, see the conflict between 'good communications' and 'can't bear to tell the truth'. that does not compute. unless the true nature of the problem is examined, it can't be solved.

anyway, just because she is not attracted to him doesn't mean he's not attractive. they both find more compatible mates the next time around.
posted by FauxScot at 6:28 AM on May 26, 2006

Be honest with your husband. Either he's OK with a sexless marriage and with your finding sex elsewhere, or he isn't and deserves someone who's attracted to him. There's no point keeping quiet and agonizing.

So.. he's attractive, but you're not attracted to him? I'm a little confused on how this is even possible

This is incredibly clueless. "Attractive" means fitting a cultural matrix of attractiveness, evidenced by the kinds of people you see in ads and TV shows. The group of people most of us are actually attracted to is smaller and overlaps only partially (if at all) with that culturally determined group. Is that really such a hard concept to grasp?
posted by languagehat at 7:13 AM on May 26, 2006

Agreed with ikkyu2 about the lying, though perhaps not quite so damningly.

You'll be amazed how initimate and sexy HONESTY can be. You can tell him the truth in several ways that aren't as hurtful as "I'm not attracted to you."

You can tell him that you have a sex drive but it's become completely disconnected from your feelings about him. You can tell him that you don't feel the least bit sexy when you're together. You can tell him that the sexual spark between you has died. You seem eager to save his ego but trust me, you're damaging it already by not showing attraction for him. So get the truth out in the open. It's not like he doesn't already know.

I think it is possible to kindle sexual attraction where there wasn't any before. But I think it requires you to step outside your daily routine. You'll never get it done in the midst of your day-to-day. Take a 2 week vacation somewhere where you can chill, enjoy some sensual delights like sun and music. Don't plan much to do.

You could also consider taking a long holiday FROM each other. 2 months apart might make or break you at long last. Perhaps you'll feel a spark when he first returns, something you can stoke to a flame. Or perhaps, given some latitude, you'll sleep with someone else and have the opportunity to see how you feel about that.

There's definitely something going on, though. It takes a serious emotional block to make someone willing to live without sex rather than engage in it with the person they "love." I mean really. It sounds like all the counselling and talking you've done thus far has been a waste. Start over and don't be afraid to tell the truth.
posted by scarabic at 6:30 AM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

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